–Julia Crowley, EDN
Lunch Gals Maria and I love sushi, but Jennifer…not so much. So, when we found out Jennifer couldn’t meet us for lunch this past Friday, Maria and I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to enjoy the Japanese food we love.
Because there’s roughly around twenty sushi restaurants in Eugene, we reached out to our fans on the Local Lunch Gals facebook page for help in making a decision. The sushi restaurants that were mentioned the most were Sushi Domo, Komitori, Izumi, Mio and Sushi Pure. Both Maria and I have been to Izumi, and we wanted to try something new. Because I love sake, and there were several mentions of delicious sake at Sushi Pure, we decided that Sushi Pure would be our Friday lunch destination. Besides, we both love Fifth Street Market, and Sushi Pure is conveniently located on the second floor with easy access to some of our favorite shops at the Market.
There are two entrances into Sushi Pure, one is located on 5th Street and the other faces the courtyard which is in the center of the Market. We came through the courtyard entrance, and I immediately loved the ambiance. Wood floors, wood beamed ceilings and dimly lit Japanese lanterns created a cozy and intimate setting. Seating included booths and tables, and bistro chairs lined a bar near the courtyard entrance and the sushi bar near the 5th Street entrance.
We decided to take a booth adjacent to the sushi bar. The generous menu included appetizers, sashimi and sushi, donburi and chriashi, sushi rolls, specialty sushi rolls, vegetarian options and a kids menu. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t even peek at the wine list, so I’m sorry to say that I have no idea what wines they offer – the sake menu had my full attention. I decided on the Momokawa Sake Flight, a flight with three shots of sake from Sake One, produced in Forest Grove, Oregon: Ruby, Organic Junmai Ginjo and Organic Nigori. Maria ordered the well-known Japanese Sapporo beer.
For food, we decided to share the Bento Box Special, a combination platter that may vary daily, with Japanese Cucumber Salad, Vegetable and Shrimp Tempura, Shrimp Dumplings and Teriyaki Tofu or Chicken (we chose chicken). We also ordered, to share, the Daydream, an eight piece Specialty Roll with Lobster Tail Tempura, Snow Crab, Avocado and Cucumber along with the Spider Maki, a five piece Sushi Roll with Mangrove Soft Shell Crab, Avocado, Cucumber, Green Onion, and Smelt Roe with Unagi Sauce.
The Momokawa Sake Flight was excellent. While I really enjoyed the unique flavors of all three, my favorite was the Ruby. The finish displayed intense tropical and berry flavors that I absolutely loved.
The Spider Maki Sushi Rolls arrived first, and the rice was the color of lavender! Both Maria and I have had a lot of sushi, but neither of us have ever seen rice with a purple hue. Our curiosity had us wondering about this beautifully colored rice, but our palates took over and we decided to eat the Spider Maki before inquiring about the rice. Absolutely delicious, the soft shell crab was tempura fried, and had a slightly crunchy texture that was divine with the creamy avocado and fresh cucumber. When the Daydream arrived, also with purple hued rice, the lobster tail, snow crab, avocado and cucumber were all combined together and packed full of flavors. Each of the sushi rolls were equally delicious.
The Bento Box Lunch was much bigger than we had anticipated. For just $9.95, this platter had more than enough for two, but everything looked mouthwatering. The only ingredient that varied from the listed ingredients on the menu were the Shrimp Dumplings; instead, about 6 bite-sized pieces of battered and fried tuna were covered with an outstanding pink sauce that was sweet upon entry and perfectly spicy on the finish. The tempura vegetables were lightly crispy and fried with precision, and the cucumber salad was refreshing, crunchy and zesty. The teriyaki sauce on the chicken was impressively light in consistency, yet packed with flavor.
I could go on and on about how phenomenal the food was, but our visit to Sushi Pure turned out to be an experience that was more than just enjoying excellent food. Since our booth was adjacent to the sushi bar, we noticed one of the sushi chefs working very diligently on the end of a cucumber. I walked over to get a closer look and asked the chef if I could take his picture for an article I was writing. Instead of showing me what he was doing, he said, “Please have a seat, and I’ll bring you something you’ll enjoy.”
While the sushi chef worked on creating something special for us, we anxiously awaited and watched him from afar as he intensely sliced, rolled and decorated. When he was finished, he brought over a wooden board with three pieces of sushi, in addition to the cucumber end he had been working on. He pointed to each piece and explained which each one was: a Kimono girl made with a scallop, a Koi fish made with snapper, a crane made with squid, and the cucumber was carved to resemble a Japanese lady. Each piece was crafted beautifully, and neither of us could imagine eating his intricate creations.
He pulled a seat up to our table and sat down, and introduced himself: Preston Shin, owner, chef and sushi crafter. Shin first told us about the lavender colored rice, also known as Black Rice or Forbidden Rice. Black Rice has a plethora of health benefits, and because of it’s many outstanding benefits, it’s more expensive than any other type of rice on the market. The crane squid and the Koi snapper were each crafted to be eaten in one bite. The rice was formed into a fan shape; therefore, when the sushi is placed on the tongue, it fits perfectly while the fish and rice infuse seamlessly.
We also learned that the purpose of soy sauce with sushi is not to make it salty, but to neutralize the vinegar in the rice. If sushi is served with a slice of lemon, it should never be squirted directly on to the fish; instead, it should be added to the soy sauce. Adding the acidic juice of a lemon directly to the sushi will immediately start cooking the fish. We also learned that sushi should be eaten with your hands because it is created by the chef’s hands. Shin explained this produces a respect and bond between the chef and the guest.
Shin said, “the perfect image of a person eating sushi is of a Kimono girl, sitting quietly, hands folded, and thinking about the vibrant life of the fish she had just eaten.”
Each and every bite should be thought through and completely savored. Shin even uses special knives, and he cuts the fish in a certain way while avoiding pushing down on the cells in the fish, which in turn retains the fish’s natural flavors.
Maria and I were in awe with the stories and lessons in the beauty and art of sushi that Shin had shared with us. Although we hesitated eating the exquisite sushi that Shin had so diligently crafted, Maria ate the crane squid and I ate the Koi snapper. But, this time, we used our hands instead of chopsticks. We thought about the ocean and the environment of where the food we were eating came from, and we took note of the flawlessly infused flavors and truly savored every morsel.
Our visit to Sushi Pure well exceeded our expectations, and these two Local Lunch Gals will be back in the very near future. We usually don’t rate restaurants-we prefer to simply share our experiences. But, if we were to give a number rating to Sushi Pure, it would be a 10 out of 10. From the ambiance and food to the service and full-blown experience, we loved everything about Sushi Pure.
For a full review on all three Sake’s from the Momokawa Sake Flight, visit WineJulia.com.
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Click on the image below to read all the benefits of Black Rice.